Press Pass: Inside the locker room

In this edition of "Press Pass," go inside the Buccaneers' NFC South-winning locker room and read what players like Ronde Barber, John Wade and Jeff Garcia had to say about Tampa Bay's 37-3 win over Atlanta on Sunday:


On winning the NFC South

It's great. Three titles in six years here. We came into this game with a goal, to do just that at home, to finally get this off our back and not worry about what New Orleans was doing against Arizona today. We played well. It's definitely a battered team over there. To be honest with you, we wanted to keep them there and it was nice for us to go out and play the way we did and get our ninth win of the season and secure the NFC South.

On his interception return for touchdown

It was a two-and-two formation. We knew they run a lot of option routes out of that and to be honest with you, he held the ball too long and tried to throw it over there late. It was really kind of easy, probably one of the easier ones of my career. It's that time of the year, it's December and big plays need to happen this time of year and I'm glad I got us off going right.

On if he baited him to make that throw

Not necessarily. It may have looked like that. I just kind of had a feel that it was coming, then if that's baiting, knowing your offense, then yeah. But no, it was just me doing what I need to do, playing baseball for us, and like I said, he threw it a little bit late and it was a little bit easy.


On winning the NFC South

It feels good. Obviously we thank God for the second time in my career that we went from worst to first. To clinch the division and be in the playoffs with two weeks to go says a lot about this football team. It still gives us time, we still have a couple goals out there in terms of how we can use these next two games, in terms of getting our playoff mentality going. I'm glad we clinched as early as we did so now we can start moving into a post-season mentality. This one is for the fans who showed up today, it really feels good to crown yourselves as division champs, but like I said, it's just the first step.

On the kickoff return for a touchdown

I've been whispering to [Micheal] Spurlock all year long, just saying in practice, the moves that he's making, the guys up front, you can see every week that we've been one block away, it seems like, for a whole year. When Mike hit that hole today, the whole city was ecstatic to see this happen. It can happen again before the year ends because that's one of the units that has gotten better throughout the season. We haven't gotten touchdowns, but we've been really getting good field position. So now we have to get our punt return game going and that will really help us be a more complete football team.

On the kickoff return for a touchdown

Every time we receive the ball, I'm thinking about it. Today, it's good to get that out of the way. It kind of feels like when we won a cold weather game when it was less than 40 degrees, it feels the same to be honest with you. I couldn't be more proud of the guys that lined up and did it, because most of them you're not going to see in the starting lineup, but they're just as big a part of our football team.


On the kickoff return for a touchdown

First of all, the defense with an interception. Ronde did an outstanding job and a history making return on a kickoff, another outstanding play that gave us a 14-3 lead at the time. You can't say enough about the way our special teams has played throughout the season and finally getting that big break. It was just a matter of time. It really had showcased itself on a weekly basis, being close at times. The way our defense has played, you can't say enough about those guys. They are playing outstanding football, especially right now at the right time.

On the offense

We basically got into a very run-oriented mode and we used a lot of two tight end sets and just pounded the ball. That really became our offensive scheme from what seemed like the second quarter on. We were protecting the lead and we turned it over to our offensive line and said, be physical with Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman and we were able to get Michael Bennett involved late in the game. Those guys did an outstanding job of running the football.

On winning the NFC South

It's just a credit to the players on this team, the coaching staff of believing in ourselves and overcoming certain obstacles throughout the season, like injuries and situations where people had everything stacked up against us, but we never listened to what was going on outside of our facility. It's a credit to the players within the facility as far as the focus that they have had all season long and the attitude we have had as a team and the togetherness we have had as a team. There is never any finger pointing. There is never any blame with losses. It's about us, we rise and fall together and that's just a great situation for me to be a part of. It's been a great year so far and we just want to continue to make it better on a weekly basis. Now that we have secured a division title, it allows us to start looking forward to what's ahead. We are not going to lose sight of our next week and our next opponent, but it is something to be excited about. It is something to look forward to and it's a credit to this team to overcome what many people thought would be another rebuilding year and we are not about rebuilding.


On his mindset when Spurlock broke free for the kick return

I was a livid man; I was upset because I wasn't out there. I was one of the guys that wanted to be out there when I was on special teams, be one of the guys on the field when that happened; but I was happy for Spurlock. This is another great story for this year; another guy stepped up and is doing the job for this team.

On wearing his championship hat

I'm going to put it on, I'm going to wear it out, and I am definitely proud of it. We'll probably celebrate that tonight.

On talking about the running game

It was great to have a three back rotation tonight. Michael Pittman played, he's back. Michael Bennett came in there and made some great runs. It's great to have that pride going into the playoffs. We played some physical ball and we have been putting that on the field all season. So we will continue to do that throughout the year.


On what he was doing during Micheal Spurlock's touchdown

I was jumping up and down. It's a franchise play, what else can you say. I mean that was unbelievable. The first time ever, wow, how do you not get excited about that?

On a good performance last week as well

He's got a good feel obviously for returns as far as the way he reads. Look on tape, you can see he's got speed. He does a nice job reading the looks and guys did a heck of a job blocking. Let's not forget the guys that got him there, it wasn't just him running and guys falling over, they had a nice scheme.

On the 32 years it took to get the kickoff return for a touchdown

I've been hearing about it since I became a Buccaneer. Believe me, it's not like something we don't know about, Rich [Bisaccia] stays on top of us, so I'm happy for the special teams unit, for Rich, for Rich's family. It's going to be better at his house tonight, and just for the whole team obviously, but especially for that group of special teams, and as men, they work their tails off and I'm glad it finally paid off.

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